Friday, September 05, 2008

Game Report: Shonan Sea Rex vs. Minor Marines @ Lotte Urawa -- Atori, Hattori, and Cyclin' Takamori

Despite a lousy weather forecast all around the Kanto region last Friday (Aug 29), I used my free afternoon (no classes until 6pm) to go up to Lotte Urawa Stadium and catch the Marines minor league team playing against the Shonan Sea Rex, which are the Yokohama Bay Stars minor league team. For those unfamiliar with the system, in Japan, every team has one farm team, which generally has the same name and uniform as the top team, so when players are sent up and down, the only real difference is what stadium they're playing at. Yokohama is a rare case where the farm team actually has a different name, different uniform, and different sponsoring company than the top team, although all of the players still keep the same uniform numbers when moving between the two. Shonan's uniforms actually reminded me of one of the Seattle Mariners alternate uniforms with all of the teal, or maybe it's the Everett Aquasox I'm thinking of, I'm not sure. Either way, it was interesting to see.

Unlike the previous times I've gone to Lotte Urawa stadium, this time it was pretty much completely deserted, probably because of the weather; it's been raining off and on for what seems like forever, and even without rain, people don't really want to come sit on a muddy hillside. I arrived around 12:40pm for a 1pm game, went to the Sea Rex side since it's by first base, and could pretty much spread out anywhere on the front row bench, so I put down my bag and scorecard and camera bag and all. J.J. Furmaniak walked by on his way back to the dugout and I said "Hey, J.J., how's it going?" and he gave me a curious look and replied, "I'm okay, how're you doing?" (No, he doesn't know who I am as far as I know, but I figured it couldn't hurt to say hello anyway.)

The starting pitchers were announced a bit after that, and I couldn't possibly have been happier with the matchup: Yasutaka Hattori for the Marines, and ATORI OHTA for the Sea Rex! Wow! Not only does that ring nicely with my inner poet -- Atori vs. Hattori -- but, seriously. I'm a big Hattori fan already, I'd seen him pitch as a reliever pretty much every time I've come to Lotte Urawa, and I got to say hi to him before a minor league game in Chiba once, so that was great. But... Atori! Wow!

Atori Ohta, for those who don't know, is this big kid out of Teikyo HS, who absolutely dominated at Koshien when he was a junior, and was part of the most insane Koshien game ever, the Chiben-Teikyo game that seesawed back and forth until 13 runs were scored in the 9th inning alone between the two teams and Chiben won 13-12. Why they pinch-hit for Atori then is still beyond me, but... anyway, the Baystars drafted him in the last draft and I thought it was a really nice pickup for them. I'd just asked Westbay about him last week after our Jingu rainout, and he had no idea who I was gushing about, so seeing him on the mound at Lotte made me super-excited since I could just see for myself how he was doing. Awesome awesome.

Here's my complete photo set from the day, though I will include a bunch of photos in this post as well.



Yoshiyuki Kuwahara stood in for the ceremonial first pitch, which was thrown out by some local kid baseball player (wearing a uniform I didn't recognize). The kid looked like he was about 10 or 11 years old, and in what should have been taken as an omen that it was going to be a bizarre day, he HIT KUWAHARA WITH THE PITCH. Seriously! It was a kid-fastball and just kinda went straight at Kuwahara. Everyone was laughing, Kuwahara included, though this kid must have been totally embarrassed.

Actually, first, here is my scorecard. I'll admit as usual that I may have made a few small errors (like an F9 instead of F8), but overall everything added up right. The most important detail is that SEA REX FIRST BASEMAN YUKI TAKAMORI HIT FOR THE CYCLE. Seriously. What is up with all of these cycles lately? I saw Takamori hit for the cycle here in the minors on Friday, then in America on Monday, Adrian Beltre and Stephen Drew both hit for the cycle, the first time two guys had done so on the same day since September 17 1920. Seriously. And THEN, on Wednesday night here in Japan, Michihiro "Clean-shaven Doppleganger" Ogasawara of the Giants ALSO hit for the cycle in a victory over the Hiroshima Carp.

What the heck?

Oh, right. Scorecard:

August 29, 2008 -- Lotte Urawa Stadium

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Shonan Sea Rex 0 5 1 0 2 1 1 3 3 16 22 1
Marines (ni-gun) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 1

Sea Rex AVG AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Y.Kuwahara, rf .274 6 1 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 G1 S7 .. F9 S8 .. S7 .. KS
Shimozono, lf .257 6 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 G4 S4 .. G2 .. S8 d4 .. D9
Furmaniak, 3b .275 6 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 F9 S9 .. KS .. d1 .. S7 G6
Naitoh, cf .245 3 5 2 0 0 3 0 0 1 .. S7/G4 .. .. BB BB .. BB S7
Nishizaki, dh .312 5 3 3 2 0 1 0 0 0 .. F7 G6 .. BB S8 .. S9 E5
Takamori, 1b .287 6 1 4 5 0 0 0 0 0 .. F8 H8 .. F7 S9 .. T9 D9
Kurobane, c .261 5 2 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 .. D9 BB .. S8 .. D9 F8 G6
H.Saitoh, 2b .148 3 1 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 .. BB KS .. BB .. F8 KS ..
Kajitani, ss .232 5 1 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 .. S7 KC .. F8 .. D7 G6 ..

Marines AVG AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Hayasaka, ss .226 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 BB .. F9 .. G4 .. .. d4 ..
Daita, lf-cf .217 4 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 G6 .. KS .. .. G3 .. G4 ..
Minami, cf .240 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 F9 .. .. BB .. KC .. .. ..
Ohtani, cf .188 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. F9
Hosoya, 3b .276 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 T8 .. .. F9 .. f3 .. .. F8
Shinzato, 2b .285 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 F8 .. .. F9 .. .. F9 .. ..
Shirakawa, 2b .167 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. L6
Kakunaka, dh .277 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. G1 .. S4 .. .. KC .. ..
Kanazawa, c .290 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Kohbe, ph-1b .265 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. G6 .. .. F8 .. S9 .. ..
Aomatsu, 1b-c .265 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. L3 .. .. G4 .. G6 .. ..
Satoh, rf .223 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. G5 .. S7 .. .. S7 ..

Atori (win) 5.04 7 26 4 0 3 2 1 1
Okamoto 3.48 0.2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kizuka 4.15 1.1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0

Hattori (loss) 7.19 2.1 16 7 1 0 2 6 6
N.Kobayashi 4.79 2 10 1 0 3 3 2 2
Eguchi 7.71 1.2 7 4 0 0 1 1 1
Mishima 6.34 1 5 3 0 0 0 1 1
Asama 27.00 0 4 3 0 0 1 3 3
Shimoshikiryo 4.91 1 3 0 0 1 0 0 0
Tamura 7.50 1 7 4 0 1 0 3 1

You can see many of my favorite guys played in this game: Hattori and Kohbe and Shimoshikiryo for Lotte, and the best was for the Sea Rex -- I got to see Atsushi Kizuka! Yay!

So, things started out in a typical way with this game; the Marines actually got out to a lead in the first inning; Takenori Daita reached base on a failed double play and then a few batters later Kei Hosoya tripled to center to bring in the run, making it 1-0.

Little did they know it'd be the last run they'd score that day, as Atori kept them in check for the next few hours.

Hattori, on the other hand, ran into trouble in the top of the 2nd inning. Yuta Naitoh started off with a single, and then there were two pop-outs, so catcher Toshiki Kurobane came to bat with two outs and a guy on first... and he pounded a ball through to the rightfield corner, Naitoh scoring the tying run. 1-1. Hidemitsu Saitoh walked, and then Takayuki Kajitani singled in Kurobane. 2-1. Yoshiyuki Kuwahara came up and ALSO hit a single, but the runners held and so the bases were loaded for Tatsuya Shimozono.

Shimozono hit a hard grounder to second, and 2B Ken Shinzato threw to SS Keisuke Hayasaka covering second, only Kuwahara managed to slide in before the ball got there, so not only was everyone safe, but Saitoh scored on the play as well. 3-1. JJ Furmaniak came up to bat at that point and hit a single to right. Kajitani scored easily and Kuwahara scored not-so-easily; I'm not entirely sure he beat the tag at home and neither was Marines catcher Takeshi Kanazawa, who argued with the umpire for about a minute about it. Either way, it was 5-1 and the Sea Rex had completely batted around their order, just in time for Naitoh to come up to bat again and ground out to second, this time Shinzato making the safe play at first base.

Naitoh fails to get picked off first base.

And here's Naitoh sliding in with the first Searex run of the game.

Hidemitsu Saitoh at bat.

JJ Furmaniak hits his 2-run single.

Takeshi Kanazawa argues that Kuwahara wasn't safe at home.

So, apparently by arguing with the umpires, Kanazawa managed to unleash the wrath of some Bad Luck Demons, because when he came to bat in the bottom of the 2nd, he shot himself in the foot. That is, he fouled a pitch off of his right leg, and kind of fell over and yelled out in pain, and ended up being helped off the field by a few trainers after a few minutes of spraying and whatnot made it obvious he wasn't going to get back up to finish out his at-bat.

Given that being a Lotte catcher this year has not entirely been unlike being a drummer for Spinal Tap, it shouldn't surprise me too much to see a freak injury to a Lotte catcher, but it was still pretty crazy.

The only good part is, my Marines ni-gun boyfriend Takumi Kohbe replaced him at-bat and would end up entering the game as a first baseman, as Keiyo Aomatsu switched from first base to catcher.

With one out in the top of the 3rd, Searex first baseman Yuki Takamori BLASTED a home run over the centerfield wall. 6-1. Kurobane walked, and that was it for Hattori in the game, as Noriyuki Kobayashi (#123!) replaced him. I was a bit sad because as I said, I'm a Hattori fan, but it was also a nice change to watch some Baystars players actually win a game for once as well.

Kobayashi struck out Saitoh and Kajitani to end the inning.

Kanazawa fouls the ball off his leg.

Kanazawa is struck by the Chiba Catcher Curse of 2008.

Yuki Takamori HITS THE BALL.

Takamori kept looking over at the stands. I'm sure he wondered what the hell I was doing there too.

Kohbe grounds out.

Kohbe was chatting and smiling with Searex firstbase coach Jun Inoue.

Inoue-coach, who played for Yokohama for a long time and then for Lotte for a few years as well.

Noriyuki 1-2-3 Kobayashi.

In the bottom of the 3rd, while the Marines were grounding out of another inning, I saw a familiar face go by -- Sign Guy, who I usually stalk at Baystars games, had shown up at the game for whatever reason. He didn't have his signs, but he did have his normal leather pants and obscure Baystars jersey (this time a signed Manei #0 jersey) and bandana and all. I called out his name as he walked past me and he was like "Oh! Hey, long time no see!"

Saw a pretty bizarre play happen in the bottom of the 4th. Ryusuke Minami walked to lead off the inning, and then two outs later, Katsuya Kakunaka was at bat. Kakunaka grounded up the right side as Minami was running towards second and BAM, Minami actually got knocked down by the ball. Seriously. So, the thing is, I wasn't really sure how to score it -- I just wrote down a ?! in my card and a description of what happened, as Minami was just sitting there on his knees in the dirt between the bases, laughing at the absurdity of the play. It seems that Kakunaka was credited with a single, but I'm not sure who was credited with the putout on Minami exactly. It was just plain weird.

I guess Noriyuki Kobayashi ran out of steam after an inning, because he walked the first two Searex batters in the 5th -- Naitoh and Nishizaki. Takamori popped out, and Kurobane singled up the middle, loading the bases, and then Noriyuki walked ANOTHER batter, Saitoh, which brought in a run. 7-1. Noriyuki came out of the game and Ryosuke Eguchi came in. He got a popout from Kajitani, and then Kuwahara singled to center. Minami, ostensibly to make up for his previous baserunning gaffe, recovered and FIRED the ball in, so while Nishizaki scored with no problem from third (8-1), Kurobane was tagged out by a mile trying to stretch from second.

After a quick bottom half of the inning, the mid-game break time began, and the dirt zamboni came out on the field to plow the infield.

I had seen Atsushi Kizuka walk behind the bleachers from the clubhouse to the bullpen earlier, since in Urawa, the players pretty much have to walk either in front of the fans or behind the fans to get across. (It's really funny to me to see players come out of the clubhouse and go to the vending machine to buy soft drinks, but it happens.) I figured I'd climb up the hill and see who was in the bullpen, and sure enough, Kizuka was warming up! How cool! But there was a thick cloth fence inbetween so I couldn't really take any pictures. Still, that was exciting.

On my way back I stopped by to say hi to Sign Guy, who was sitting further out by the bullpens. I asked why he didn't have his signs, and he was like "Well, there aren't really all that many people here... I don't usually bring them to minor league games."

The game restarted. Eguchi remained on the mound for Lotte... and Shimozono promptly got a single off him, which JJ Furmaniak canceled by grounding into a double play. Okay. But then Eguchi walked Naitoh, and Nishizaki singled, and then Takamori singled to right. Naitoh scored, making it 9-1, but then Takamori also got himself caught in a rundown between first and second. Oops. Nishizaki took advantage of the rundown to try to score as well, and got tagged out at the plate. Boom.

Here's Minami sitting in the basepath after getting himself knocked down by a grounder.

Ryosuke Eguchi pitching.

Takamori ducks and swerves in the rundown.

Terufumi Mishima took the mound for Lotte in the top of the 7th and gave up another run, as Kurobane doubled into the rightfield corner and Kajitani subsequently doubled into the leftfield corner. 10-1.

Takamori, in further dumb luck, actually missed catching a ball during the round-the-corners tossing before the bottom of the 7th. Seriously. The ball banged up against the fence with a loud thud. A little boy was standing there wearing a glove behind the fence, and Takamori came over to get the ball, looked through, saw the little kid staring at the ball, kind of winked, and tossed the ball up over the fence to the kid. I'm not sure he was supposed to do that, actually, but maybe it gave him the good luck he ended up having for the rest of the game.

Keita Asama took the mound for Lotte in the top of the 8th, around the same time Sign Guy decided to come over and sit down next to me, since the bench had emptied out a bit by then. Sign Guy is really interesting, he's totally my kind of crazy, and he's also a walking meikan of sorts. We watched as JJ singled, Naitoh walked, and Nishizaki also singled (scoring JJ, 11-1). Then Takamori came up to bat and as a joke I softly called "TA-KA-MO-RI!!!!" the way people would usually yell for Takanori Suzuki. Sign Guy laughed, and then Takamori hit the ball way to right field... it looked to be foul, but ended up landing JUST inside fair territory, and rolled out to the corner, and the Searex runners all ran. Naitoh scored. Nishizaki scored. Takamori slid into third base for a triple. Exciting! 13-1! Asama, who had failed to even record one out, was taken out of the game at that point, and guess who came in?

Yuta Shimoshikiryo! Submarine Junior!!

I was really excited and started babbling to Sign Guy about how awesome Shimoshikiryo is... and SG babbled back at me about how he had gone to the industrial league tournament last year and seen Shimoshikiryo pitch for Nihon Seimei and thought he was super-cool. Owned. I ran up to the fence to take photos of my second-favorite submariner...

Yuta Shimoshikiryo!!!

Yay Shimoshikiryo! Yay submariners!!

And, one last parting shot of Atori Ohta, who pitched 7 excellent innings. Awwwww.

Shimo-kun doesn't suck. He got three quick outs from the Searex to end the inning with Takamori still standing on third base.

So, Atori came out of the game after 7 innings, having only given up that run in the first inning. I know I'm easily impressed, but I thought it was a great outing.

Naoya Okamoto took the mound for the Searex in the bottom of the 8th. "Ugh," said Sign Guy, "he sucks. It's not good to see him out there."

"Err... okay..." I replied, not actually really having any clue who Okamoto was. Then I counted up the score on the manual scoreboard -- they don't keep a running total, just inning-by-inning -- and continued, "It's 13 to 1! I wouldn't worry too much."

"Nono, I'm not worried about today," he said, "Just in general, I don't think this guy's ever gonna be good for us at ichi-gun."

I took the opportunity then to ask Sign Guy about how long he'd been a Baystars fan and so on. He said since he was a kid, so about 20 years (he's slightly younger than me). I asked him about Takuro Ishii's former lifetime as a pitcher, and he started talking about the 1990ish Taiyo Whales, in way too fast a voice for me to follow more than about 50% of what he was saying -- kind of like the way I get when talking about the 1980's Phillies.

Fortunately, I was saved from complete mental overload by a really awesome thing happening after two outs...


Yeah! Atsushi Kizuka came out to replace Okamoto on the mound, and I had the perfect reason to say "Excuse me, must go take photos of my FAVORITE BAYSTARS PITCHER OMG", as Kizuka started his normal mound-taking routine of jumping up and down, squatting, kicking the mound, doing bizarre stretches, kicking the mound some more, jumping again, doing some weird sign-like waving at his teammates, crouching down, and practically flying off the mound as he unleashed his warmup pitches. I love Kizuka. I would happily watch him all day, except that the Baystars generally bring him out for only one out at a time, long enough to confuse whoever is batting and to disrupt whatever footholds the opposing pitcher had in the mound.

This is Atsushi Kizuka. He is awesome.

Kizuka got a groundout to end the inning, and then the top of the 9th started, with Ryohei Tamura taking the mound for Lotte.

Tamura has an interesting story, for sure -- it seems that he was drafted out of highschool by the Hanshin Tigers in 2002, probably because he is left-handed and can throw pretty fast, and his father Masao was also a pro pitcher. Tamura, who seems to have some control issues, and whose idol is Kei Igawa (go figure), was released by the Tigers after the 2007 season. He went to the tryouts at Chiba Marine Stadium after that, and ended up being signed as a taxi squad player by Lotte, and wears #126 with them.

As it is, Tamura started off well enough by striking out Kuwahara, but then also got pounded by the Searex, just like everyone else. Shimozono doubled to right. JJ Furmaniak grounded to short, and Hayasaka threw to third and caught Shimozono sliding into the bag for the second out. But then Naitoh singled, and he and JJ both advanced on a wild pitch during Nishizaki's at-bat. Nishizaki grounded to third, and Kei Hosoya made a decent stop on the ball, but his throw to first base was WAY wide -- and when you miss a target like 6'5" first baseman Takumi Kohbe, you KNOW that's an error -- the ball went sailing away, JJ and Naitoh both scoring on the play as the Marines scrambled to recover the ball in time. 15-1.

Takamori came up to bat and he DOUBLED TO RIGHT!

The old guys behind us said, "Hey, he just hit for the cycle, didn't he?"

I looked down at my scorecard and SURE ENOUGH, Takamori had hit a home run, then a single, then a triple, and now a double!

"WOW! A cycle in the minor leagues? When's the last time THAT ever happened?" I remarked.

Sign Guy said, "I have no idea. It's pretty rare, I'm sure."

Nishizaki scored on that play to bring it to the final score of 16-1, and then Kurobane grounded out to end the inning. And Kizuka stayed on to pitch the bottom of the 9th, which made me very happy, and he got out of it 1-2-3 to end the game a little bit after 4pm.

Searex high-five each other, after what had to be one of the craziest landslide wins for them all year.

Final scoreboard. Math is fun.

I can see that Kizuka's been spending his rehab time growing a nice head of curly hair, if nothing else.

The Searex guys came out to do more exercises and workouts after the game, even though they won. I saw Kizuka talking to pitching coach Junichiro Mutoh -- yet another "hey, I recognize that coach" moment, and took the above picture. And then I felt really embarrassed just standing there with my camera staring at the players doing their post-game talks/stretches/etc, so I packed up to leave.

I walked back to Musashi-Urawa station with Sign Guy, and we chatted about the Baystars, and about rock music. He was heading to Yokohama from there to watch the evening's game against Yakult, which I sadly couldn't go to because I had to return to work. I said the Baystars would definitely win, though, and as it turns out, they did.

What a great amount of fun. I love minor-league ball.

No comments: